Blake's 7

Blake's 7 is a British science fiction television series made by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for their BBC 1 channel. Created by Terry Nation, a prolific television writer best known for creating the popular Dalek monsters for the television series Doctor Who, it ran for four seasons between 1978 and 1981. Popular from the time it was first broadcast, it remains well regarded on account of its dark tone, moral ambiguity and strong characterisation. It is often remembered for the shock ending that concluded the series.

Blake's 7 is set in the future, in a time when the Earth and many other planets are ruled by the totalitarian Terran Federation. Roj Blake, played by Gareth Thomas, is a political dissident convicted on a trumped-up charge and sentenced to deportation to a penal colony on a remote planet. Escaping while being transported, with the assistance of his fellow prisoners, he obtains an advanced alien spacecraft, the Liberator which he uses to strike back against the Federation. He receives somewhat reluctant support from the rest of his crew, who are fellow escapees, especially Kerr Avon, played by Paul Darrow, a technical genius more interested in saving his own skin and seeking personal wealth than striking a blow for freedom. Later on in the series, when Blake is separated from his crew, Avon takes over, but remains a target for the forces of the Federation.

The series was originally due to conclude at the end of its third season, but was unexpectedly renewed for a further season at the last moment. This made some changes to the format of the show necessary, including introducing a new spacecraft, the Scorpio. Aware that renewal for a fifth season was unlikely, the production team decided to devise a memorable conclusion for the series, leaving the final fate of the main characters highly ambiguous. For this reason, what happened after the final episode has been the subject of much debate and fan fiction among aficionados of the series.

Blake's 7 has proved to be influential on many science fiction series, including Babylon 5, Farscape, Hyperdrive (TV series), Aeon Flux (especially Servalan) and Firefly[1]. It was one of the first television series to end its seasons on cliffhangers. The rights to the series are currently held by an independent production company, B7 Productions, who have announced that they are bringing Blake's 7 back as a series of original audio adventures in Spring 2007. They are also pursuing the possibility of a live action return for the series.

Set in the "third century of the second calendar", Blake's 7 follows the exploits of revolutionary Roj Blake as he leads his band of reluctant rebels against the forces of the totalitarian Earth Federation which rules the Earth and many of the planets of the galaxy. The Federation controls its citizens by means of mass surveillance, brainwashing, and pacification with drugged food, water and air. Blake makes his daring strikes against the Federation using the Liberator, a spacecraft far in advance of anything the Federation possesses, with superior speed and weaponry as well as a revolutionary teleport system that allows crew members to be transported to the surface of a planet without having to land the ship. Although many of the tropes of space opera such as spaceships, robots, galactic empires and aliens are present, the series is primarily noted for its strong character interaction, ambiguous morality and its dark, pessimistic tone.

In depicting a small band of outlaws, under a figurehead leader, leading a rebellion against a tyrannical regime, Blake's 7 draws a great deal of its inspiration from the legend of Robin Hood. Blake's followers, however, are far from being a band of "Merry Men". His diverse crew include a crooked computer genius (Avon), a smuggler (Jenna), a thief (Vila), a murderer (Gan), a telepathic guerrilla soldier (Cally), a computer with a mind of its own (Zen) and, later, another wayward computer (Orac), a weapons expert (Dayna), a mercenary (Tarrant), a gunslinger (Soolin) and an obsequious computer (Slave). Series creator Terry Nation originally pitched Blake's 7 as "The Dirty Dozen in space", a reference to the 1967 Robert Aldrich film in which a disparate and disorganised group of convicts are sent on a suicide mission during World War II. The escaped prisoners that make up the bulk of Blake's followers reflects the clear influence of this film. Thus, while Blake may wish to use the Liberator to strike against the Federation, the others make for reluctant followers – none more so than Avon, who is more interested in saving his own skin and using the Liberator to pursue his dreams of personal wealth. Blake and Avon's clashes over the leadership, therefore, represent conflict between idealism and cynicism. Paul Darrow's charismatic portrayal of the cynical, caustic Avon quickly made him the viewers' favourite character. Similar conflicts arise between other members of the crew e.g. the courage of characters like Blake and Avon compared with Vila's cowardice or Avon and Jenna's skepticism of Blake's ideals compared with Gan's unswerving loyalty. Loyalty and trust, therefore, are also important themes of the series. For instance: Avon is presented with a number of opportunities to abandon Blake; many of Blake's schemes require the co-operation and expertise of the others; characters are often betrayed by family and friends – none more so than Avon whose former lover, Anna Grant, is eventually revealed to be a Federation agent. This theme of loyalty and trust reaches its apotheosis during Blake and Avon's final encounter in the last episode, Blake, in which Avon's inability to trust others ultimately leads to both their downfalls. Script editor Chris Boucher, whose influence on the series grew as the seasons progressed, was inspired by the Central and South American revolutionaries, especially Zapata, in exploring the motives of Blake and his followers and the consequences of their actions. This comes to a head in the episode Star One in which Blake must face up to the reality that in achieving his aim of overthrowing the Federation, he will unleash chaos and death for many of its innocent citizens. When Avon takes control of the Liberator following Blake's disappearance after the events of Star One, he initially uses it to pursue his own agenda before, too late, he realises that he cannot escape the Federation's reach and must, like Blake, resist them. In this respect, by the end of the series he has replaced Blake.

If Blake and his crew represented Robin and his Merry Men, then the forces of the Federation, in the form of the obsessive, psychopathic Space Commander Travis and his superior, the beautiful but ruthless Supreme Commander Servalan, represented Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Servalan, who was originally intended to be a man, quickly became a very popular character, mainly because having a female character in the role of the main villain was unusual at the time. It has been suggested that her popularity also stemmed from the rise of Margaret Thatcher who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the years Blake's 7 aired.

Just as the complexity of the characters was unusual at the time, so also was the extent to which the regular characters were killed off. This trend began in the second season with the demise of Gan in the episode Pressure Point, a decision that was taken by the production team to make Blake and the Liberator crew more vulnerable. Other regulars – Travis, Jenna, Cally, Zen and even Blake – followed while key series icons such as the Liberator, Xenon Base and Scorpio were also destroyed. Avon and Vila were the only members of the original seven to make it to the end of the series and Vila was the only character to appear in all fifty-two episodes. While Blake's 7 was not the first science fiction series to kill off a regular character – notably, the series Doomwatch killed the popular character Toby Wren in 1970 – the extent to which this happens in Blake's 7 makes the series distinctive and contributes to its dark, pessimistic tone. By the end, depending on how the viewer interprets the denouement of the final episode, Blake, it can be said that every member of the seven, except perhaps Orac, has met their demise at the hands of the Federation. In this respect, according to critic Una McCormack, "rather than allowing the Liberator crew to battle through to vindicate their world-view against hostile interventions, the series sees them losing and dying. In bringing its narrative to such a definitive and dramatic conclusion, Blake's 7 broke with the constraints of episodic series drama".

Blake's 7 draws much of its inspiration for the Federation from the classic British dystopian novels Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and When the Sleeper Wakes by H. G. Wells. The methods used by the Federation to deal with Blake as seen in the first episode, The Way Back, including brainwashing and show trials, are reminiscent of the manner in which the former Soviet Union dealt with its dissidents. Explorations of totalitarianism in the series are not just confined to the Federation – totalitarian control through religion (Cygnus Alpha), genetics (The Web) and technology (Redemption) also appear throughout the series. Such authoritarian dystopias are not uncommon in Terry Nation's work, cropping up in Nation-penned Doctor Who serials such as Genesis of the Daleks. Another frequent theme in Nation's science fiction is the depiction of post-apocalyptic societies, as seen in several of his Doctor Who serials (such as The Daleks, Death to the Daleks and The Android Invasion) and in Survivors, the series he created before Blake's 7. Such societies appear in several Blake's 7 episodes including Duel, Deliverance, City at the Edge of the World and Terminal. Although not explicitly stated in the series itself, some publicity material for the series refers to the Federation as having risen from the ashes of a nuclear holocaust on Earth. Just as important an influence on Blake's 7 were classic Westerns such as The Magnificent Seven. Chris Boucher enjoyed incorporating lines from Westerns into the scripts, much to the delight of Western-buff Paul Darrow, while the final episode, Blake, was heavily inspired by The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

One aspect of Blake's 7 that has been picked up by commentators is its superficial similarities to the seminal US science fiction series Star Trek in that both series feature a mixed crew, on board an advanced starship equipped with a teleportation device roaming the universe. Blake's 7 and Star Trek both have a Federation as well but it is in this respect that the two series diverge – the crew of the starship Enterprise work for the United Federation of Planets which is a benign utopian civilisation whereas the Earth Federation of Blake's 7 is totalitarian and aggressively expansionist and is actively resisted by the crew of the Liberator. Similarly, the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew contrasts sharply with the dysfunctional nature of the relationships between the characters in Blake's 7. For this reason, Blake's 7 is viewed in some quarters as the "anti-Trek".

Another notable aspect of Blake's 7 is that it tells an unfolding story in a semi-serial manner, making it an early example of an ongoing science fiction series to employ a story arc. By contrast, most contemporary series employed a "reset button" at the end of each episode leaving the overall situation unchanged at the end of each adventure. The story arc is at its most explicit in the first two seasons which deal with Blake's trial and subsequent escape, Blake assembling the crew for the Liberator and beginning the fight back against the Federation culminating in the attempt to take down the Federation computer control in Star One. With Blake absent from the third season onwards, the arc is much looser but still present in Servalan's efforts to restore the Federation's power and later, in season four, in Avon's efforts to recruit scientists to resist the Federation's expansion. Blake's 7 was also one of the first television series to make use of the end of season cliffhanger.

A complete list of episodes with capsule summaries can be found at the list of Blake's 7 episodes.

Season 1

Roj Blake, an alpha-grade worker in one of the domed cities that house most of the population of Earth, is approached by a group of political dissidents who take him outside the city to meet their leader, Bran Foster. Foster reveals that Blake was once the leader of an influential group of rebels opposed to the Earth Administration. Arrested, he was brainwashed and coerced into making a confession denouncing the rebellion before having his memory of those years wiped. Foster wants Blake to rejoin the dissidents. Suddenly, the meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Federation security forces who open fire with lethal force on the crowd of rebels. Blake is the only survivor. Returning to the city, his erased memories starting to return, he is arrested, tried on trumped up charges of child molestation and sentenced to be deported to the prison planet Cygnus Alpha. On the prison ship, London, transporting Blake and other prisoners to Cygnus Alpha, Blake meets Vila Restal, a cunning thief; Jenna Stannis, a smuggler; Olag Gan, who murdered a Federation guard and Kerr Avon, a computer genius who attempted to defraud the Federation banking system. When the London encounters a strange alien ship, abandoned during a space battle, efforts to board the ship and claim it as salvage are thwarted by the ship's defence mechanism. As a last ditch effort, the London crew decide to send prisoners Blake, Avon and Jenna across to the ship. Blake destroys the defence system and, using Jenna's piloting skills, effects an escape with the alien ship. Following the London in their captured ship, which they have christened Liberator, to Cygnus Alpha, they retrieve Vila and Gan. Blake is now determined to use his new crew and the powerful ship they have captured to strike back against the Federation; the others – especially Avon – are reluctant followers. His first target is a communications station on the planet Saurion Major. Infiltrating the station, Blake is assisted by Cally, a telepathic guerrilla soldier from the planet Auron, whom he invites to join the crew. With this new arrival, and counting the Liberator’s computer, Zen, the Liberator has a crew of seven.

As Blake's strikes against the Federation become bolder and more effective, political pressure grows on the Administration. Supreme Commander Servalan appoints Space Commander Travis, who has a personal vendetta against Blake, to eliminate him and capture the Liberator. Meeting a man called Ensor, Blake uncovers a plot by Servalan and Travis to seize Orac, a powerful device capable of communicating with any other computer equipped with a component called a Tariel Cell. Beating Servalan to the device, they are astonished when Orac reveals its power to predict the future and horrified at what it shows them: the Liberator exploding.

Season 2

When the System (the race who originally built the Liberator) recaptures it, Orac's prophecy is revealed: it was not the Liberator that would be destroyed, but a sister ship. Blake, wishing to strike right at the heart of the Federation, targets the central computer control centre on Earth. Avon agrees, but only on the condition that Blake gives him the Liberator once the Federation has been toppled. Blake reaches the control centre, only to find an empty room. Travis reveals that the computer centre was secretly moved years before and the old location left as a decoy for the Federation's enemies. Blake escapes, but pays a heavy price when Gan is killed during the escape. While Blake ponders the future of the rebellion following the death of Gan, Travis is found guilty of war crimes at a Federation court martial. When Blake decides to avenge Gan's death by attacking Servalan's headquarters, Travis escapes to continue his vendetta with Blake. Meanwhile, Blake pursues the location of computer control, learning that the centre is now called Star One. Servalan too becomes desperate to find the location of Star One when the control centre begins to malfunction, throwing the Federation into crisis. Finding Star One, Blake discovers that aliens from the Andromeda galaxy, aided by Travis, have infiltrated it. Blake and his crew overcome the aliens and kill Travis but too late; Star One is destroyed, leaving the way open for aliens to invade. Blake moves the Liberator in to hold off the alien fleet and calls for help from the Federation, where Servalan has imposed military rule and declared herself President.

Season 3

The Liberator is severely damaged during the battle with the Andromedans, forcing the crew to abandon ship. The Federation defeat the alien invaders, having sustained heavy casualties, its influence in the galaxy is lessened considerably. Blake and Jenna go missing in action; Avon takes control of the Liberator. The remaining members of the crew are joined by two new additions: weapons expert Dayna Mellanby and mercenary Del Tarrant. While Avon is less inclined to strike against the Federation than Blake, Servalan sees capturing the Liberator as key to restoring the Federation's power. When an attempt to create clones of herself is thwarted and the clone embryos are destroyed, Servalan, suffering from "psychic miscarriage", swaps her trademark white clothes for the black of mourning. Avon decides to go after the Federation agents responsible for killing the woman he loved, Anna Grant, only to discover it was Anna herself who betrayed him. Barging in on a plot by Anna to overthrow Servalan, Avon kills Anna and frees Servalan. Using an image of Blake as a lure, Servalan leads Avon into a trap, capturing the Liberator and abandoning her crew on the planet Terminal. However, the Liberator and Zen have been irreparably damaged by a cloud of fluid particles. When Servalan orders the ship to maximum power, it explodes, apparently killing Servalan and her henchmen. Down on the planet Terminal, the Liberator crew ponder their next move.

Season 4

An explosion in Servalan's underground complex on Terminal kills Cally. Avon and the surviving crew are rescued by the mysterious Dorian and his associate, Soolin. Dorian takes them in his spacecraft, Scorpio, to his base on the planet Xenon. After Vila foils Dorian's plan to steal the crew's lifeforce, Soolin joins the crew and they take over Xenon base and the Scorpio with its onboard computer Slave. Using the technology left by Dorian, Avon constructs a new teleport system for Scorpio and later acquires a stardrive which makes the ship much faster. Becoming concerned with the speed at which the Federation are reclaiming their former territory, the Scorpio crew discover that Servalan – who has survived the destruction of the Liberator and, having been deposed as President, is going under the pseudonym of Commissioner Sleer – is masterminding a pacification programme using a drug called Pylene 50. Fearing that as the Federation continues its expansion, it will soon reach their haven on Xenon, the Scorpio crew work to create an alliance between the independent worlds to resist the Federation. However, they are betrayed by one of the alliance members, Zukon, and Xenon base is destroyed. To rally the resistance, Avon reveals he has tracked down Blake to the planet Gauda Prime. Arriving at Gauda Prime, the Scorpio is attacked and crash lands. As part of a loyalty test, Avon is fooled into believing that Blake has betrayed him to the Federation. Avon shoots and kills Blake. Federation guards arrive and there is a firefight. Tarrant, Soolin, Vila and Dayna fall to the floor, apparently shot. The guards surround Avon, who is the last one standing. Avon steps over Blake's body, raises his gun and smiles ...

Blake's 7 first appeared on British television screens on 2 January 1978. It was created by Terry Nation, a prolific television writer best known for creating the popular Dalek monsters for the long running science fiction television series Doctor Who. The notion for the series came to Nation out of the blue during a pitch meeting with Ronnie Marsh, the Head of Drama of the BBC. Intrigued by the idea, Marsh commissioned Nation for a pilot script on the spot and, satisfied with the draft scripts, Marsh green-lit Blake's 7 for full development.

Assigned to produce the series was David Maloney, a veteran BBC director with substantial experience of working on Doctor Who. Chris Boucher, who had also worked on Doctor Who, as a writer, took on the role of script editor. With Terry Nation commissioned to write all thirteen episodes of the first season, Boucher's contribution was to expand and develop the first draft scripts delivered by Nation into workable scripts, a task that became increasingly more difficult as Nation started running out of ideas. Meanwhile, Maloney was faced with the challenges of handling a shooting schedule and budget unsuited to such an action and special effects-heavy show as Blake's 7. Despite these challenges, the programme was a ratings success, with some episodes exceeding ten million viewers, and was quickly renewed for a second year.

New writers were taken on board from the second season onwards but difficulties with the scripts affected plans to have a continuing plot that would run through the season. The decision was also taken to kill off one of the regular characters to show to viewers that Blake and his crew were not indestructible. The character of Gan, played by David Jackson, was selected due to the character being under-utilised as well as being the least popular among viewers. Although ratings were down on the previous year, a third season was commissioned.

A major challenge faced the production team for the third season when star Gareth Thomas, who played Blake, quit and the series had to redefine itself in order to continue without its titular character. Various ideas to have a replacement Blake character take over fell by the wayside and the character of Avon, played by Paul Darrow, was moved centre stage from this point onwards. However, to keep the cast numbers at the titular seven, new characters Tarrant, played by Steven Pacey, and Dayna, played by Josette Simon, were added to make up for the departed Gareth Thomas and for Sally Knyvette, who played Jenna, who also left at the end of the second season.

Blake's 7 was expected to finish in 1980, after its third season, but, to the surprise of all concerned, an announcement was made over the end credits of the last episode, Terminal, that Blake's 7 would be back the following year. This happened because Bill Cotton, the Head of Television at the BBC had been watching Terminal during broadcast and had enjoyed it so much that he telephoned the presentation department at the BBC and ordered them to make the announcement. With David Maloney unavailable, the producer's reins were handed to the show's senior director, Vere Lorrimer, who oversaw major changes in the show's format including introducing a new spacecraft, Scorpio, and its computer, Slave (voiced by Peter Tuddenham). When Jan Chappell, who played Cally, chose not to return, she was replaced by Glynis Barber, playing a new character, Soolin. Gareth Thomas made one final appearance on the show as Blake, insisting that the character be killed off in a definitive manner, for the last episode. Although the fourth season performed satisfactorily in the ratings, there would be no last minute reprieve for the series this time. Blake's 7 was not renewed for a fifth year and viewers were left with an unresolved cliffhanger when the final episode, titled Blake, finished airing on 21 December 1981.

Theme tune Blake's 7's theme tune was written by Australian composer Dudley Simpson, who had been a regular composer of music for the BBC's Doctor Who for over a decade. The same recording of Simpson's theme was used for the opening titles of all four series of the show; for Series 4, a new recording was used for the closing titles, featuring a somewhat less bombastic and more easy listening style of arrangement.

Incidental music Simpson also provided the incidental music for 50 of the 52 episodes, the exceptions being the Series 1 episode "Duel" and the Series 2 episode "Gambit". In the case of "Duel" it was directed by the late Douglas Camfield, who bore a personal grudge against Simpson, and refused to use him.(Doctor Who Magazine, December 17, 1997, cited at All Experts) For "Gambit" it was decided that Elizabeth Parker should provide the music, as well as providing 'special sound' for the episode.

"Special sound" In addition to conventional incidental music and traditional acoustic foley effects, Blake's 7 featured considerable use of what the BBC credits described as "special sound". This involved an extensive array of electronically-generated sound effects, ranging from spot foley-style effects for various props (e.g. handguns, the Liberator and Scorpio teleports, engines, and flight-console buttons) to background atmospheres (ambient textures present throughout in certain sets or locations), and occasionally crossing over into the realm of incidental music (e.g. on the episodes "Duel" and "Gambit"). All the special sounds for Blake's 7 were provided by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with Richard Yeoman-Clark working from the beginning of the series up until "Gambit", whereupon new Workshop recruit Elizabeth Parker took over, staying in this role for the remainder of the show's run. Many of these effects were released on the compilation album BBC Sound Effects No. 26 - Sci-Fi Sound Effects.

The fourth episode of the first season, Time Squad, was reviewed by Stanley Reynolds, the television critic of The Times newspaper, the day following its broadcast. Reynolds gave a broadly positive assessment of the episode, commenting that it was "nice to hear the youngsters holding their breath in anticipation of a little terror." He elaborated that: "Television science fiction has got too self-consciously jokey lately. It is also nice to have each episode complete within itself, while still carrying on the saga of Blake's struggle against the 1984-ish Federation. But is that dark-haired telepathic alien girl, the latest addition to Blake's outer-space merry men, going to spell love trouble for blonde Jenna? Maid Marian never had that trouble in Sherwood Forest."

In January 1998, The Independent newspaper published a retrospective feature on the series by journalist Robert Hanks, to coincide with both the programme's twentieth anniversary and the first BBC Radio 4 revival of the programme. Hanks praised the series' ethos in comparison with Star Trek, saying that: "If you wanted to sum up the relative position of Britain and America in this century - the ebbing away of the pink areas of the map, the fading of national self-confidence as Uncle Sam proceeded to colonise the globe with fizzy drinks and Hollywood - you could do it like this: they had Star Trek, we had Blake's 7... No "boldly going" here: instead, we got the boot stamping on a human face which George Orwell offered as a vision of humanity's future in Nineteen Eighty-Four." Hanks concluded that: "Blake's 7 has acquired a credibility and popularity Terry Nation can never have expected... I think it's to do with the sheer crappiness of the series and the crappiness it attributes to the universe: it is science-fiction for the disillusioned and ironic - and that is what makes it so very British."

The British Film Institute's "Screenonline" website suggests that "The premise of Blake's 7 held nothing remotely original. The outlaw group resisting a powerful and corrupt regime is an idea familiar from Robin Hood and beyond." However, the entry subsequently goes on to add that "Blake's 7's triumph lay in its vivid characters, its tight, pacey plots and its satisfying realism... For arguably the first time since the 1950s Quatermass serials, the BBC had created a popular sci-fi/fantasy show along adult lines." The review points out in conclusion that: "Ultimately, the one force the rebels could not overcome proved to be the BBC's long-standing apathy towards science fiction. However, the bloody finale, in which Avon murders Blake, exemplified the programme's strengths - fearless narratives, credible but surprising character development and an enormous sense of fun."

It was apparent quite early on to producer Vere Lorrimer and script editor Chris Boucher that Blake's 7 was unlikely to be renewed for a fifth season. In considering how to best wrap up the series, the notion of having Blake return to lead a final all-out assault on the Federation was considered and then rejected on the grounds that it stretched credulity. Instead Lorrimer and Boucher chose to craft a memorable conclusion in which the final fates of the cast would be left hanging. Conscious that the series had received a last-minute reprieve the previous year, Boucher deliberately kept the ending ambiguous so that if the show was to return for a fifth year "anybody who didn't want to sign their contract was dead, and there were ways of bringing the others back". The one exception to this was the fate of Blake – Gareth Thomas had agreed to reprise the role again only on the condition that Blake was killed off once and for all. Terry Nation, who had not been informed of what was planned, was upset by the conclusion and briefly considered taking legal action against the BBC. He recalled, "They were really dumb to do it. I killed off the Daleks remember, and what a dumb thing that was to do, so I learned that lesson, and it should have applied to this". The final episode also provoked a strong reaction from the viewing public especially from parents of younger viewers upset at the apparent deaths of their heroes. Lorrimer issued a standard letter to concerned viewers telling them that all good things come to an end and reminded them that no blood was seen when the Scorpio crew fell. In 1982, Blake's 7 was the subject of 2007 letters to the BBC demanding the return of the series, making it the single most popular subject of viewer correspondence that year, in spite of the fact that it was no longer a current programme.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) the cliffhanger ending, stories about possible resolutions are a popular topic among Blake's 7 fans. These are generally referred to as "Post Gauda Prime" stories – Gauda Prime being the planet on which the final episode took place. A novel, Afterlife, written by Tony Attwood was published by Target Books in 1984. Set five months after the final episode, it attempted to continue the story with Avon, Vila and Orac having survived the massacre. Attwood planned a follow up novel, titled State of Mind, but this did not materialise. Post Gauda Prime stories also crop up frequently in Blake's 7 fan fiction with many stories finding means for the characters, including Blake, to have survived.

Blake's 7's major legacy to future TV space opera was the use of moral ambiguity and dysfunctional main characters to create tension, as well as long-term plot arcs to hold episodes together. These traits later were seen in Lexx, Andromeda, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, Farscape, the new Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly, as opposed to the 'feel-good' tone and unconnected episode structure of early Star Trek, or the series' main contemporary, Doctor Who. Blake's 7 was also arguably unique in TV SF in that it had a major influence on written SF, with the revival of written space opera in the 1990s coming from the UK at the hands of writers such as Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, and Iain M. Banks.[citation needed] These authors are all of the generation that watched Blake's 7, and their work features morally ambivalent, often sarcastic and driven characters, whose usually violently-terminated lives are spent in vast and baroque spacecraft. Also influenced by Blake's 7 was television playwright Dennis Potter whose final work, Cold Lazarus, was inspired by the show.

Blake's 7 remains highly regarded to this day – a poll of US science fiction writers, fans and critics for John Javna's 1987 book The Best of Science Fiction placed the series twenty-fifth in its list even though the series had only recently started to be screened there. A similar poll of British writers, fans and critics for SFX magazine in 1999 put Blake's 7 at sixteenth place, commenting that "20 years on, TV SF is still mapping the paths first explored by Terry Nation's baby". Later, in 2005, SFX polled its readers for their top fifty British telefantasy shows of all time and Blake's 7 made it to number four on the list, beaten only by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf and Doctor Who. Similarly, a readers poll conducted by TV Zone magazine in 2003 for their top one hundred cult television programmes placed Blake's 7 in eleventh position. In 2004, a short, fifteen minute, comedy film, titled Blake's Junction 7, made its debut at several film festivals around the world. Directed by Ben Gregor and written by Tim Plester, it starred Mackenzie Crook, Martin Freeman, Johnny Vegas, Mark Heap and, reprising the voice of Orac, Peter Tuddenham. This spoof homage depicted the adventures of the infamous seven at the Newport Pagnell motorway service area. The BBC themselves paid tribute to the series with a thirty minute documentary, The Cult of... Blake's 7, first broadcast on 12 December 2006 on BBC Four as part of that channel's Science Fiction Britannia season.

The notion of bringing Blake's 7 back in some form or another has been around for some years. Terry Nation raised the possibility on a number of occasions before his death in 1997. Nation's proposal was that a new series would be set some years after the old one and would feature the character of Avon, living in exile, much like Napoleon on Elba, who would be persuaded by a new group of rebels to take up arms against the Federation again.

In 1998, Blake's 7 did, briefly, return to the BBC – on the radio. The Sevenfold Crown, produced by Brian Lighthill (who had directed the episodes Gold and Orbit) and written by Barry Letts (a former producer of Doctor Who), was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 17 January 1998 as part of its Playhouse strand. Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Steven Pacey, Peter Tuddenham and Jacqueline Pearce all returned to recreate their roles. However, when Josette Simon and Glynis Barber proved unavailable, they were replaced by Angela Bruce and Paula Wilcox as Dayna and Soolin respectively. The story was set during Season 4 between the episodes Stardrive and Animals. This was followed up by The Syndeton Experiment, which featured the same cast, producer and writer, broadcast, as The Saturday Play, on 10 April 1999, on BBC Radio 4.

In April 2000, it was announced that producer Andrew Mark Sewell had bought the rights to the series from the estate of Terry Nation and was planning a TV movie set 20 years after the original series had concluded. In July 2003, it was announced that Paul Darrow, along with Sewell and Simon Moorhead, was part of a consortium, called Blake's 7 Enterprises, that had acquired the rights and were planning a TV miniseries budgeted at $5-6 million. Paul Darrow would be the only returning star from the original series, which would be set 25 years on from the events of Blake, and would appear on TV screens by Spring 2005, depending on "many factors, not least financing". Paul Darrow subsequently left the project in December 2003, citing "artistic differences". A press release from Blake's 7 Enterprises on 31 October 2005 announcing the appointment of Drew Kaza as Non-Executive Chairman of the company also listed two Blake's 7 projects under development: Blake's 7: Legacy, a two part, three hour mini-series to be written by Ben Aaronovitch and D. Dominic Devine and Blake's 7: The Animated Adventures, a 26-part children's animated adventure series to be written by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt and James Swallow. In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, writer and producer Matthew Graham, best known as the co-creator of the television series Life on Mars, revealed that he had been involved in discussions to bring Blake's 7 back. Graham's notion for the series proposed that a group of young rebels would rescue Avon, who has been kept cryogenically frozen by Servalan, and then roam the galaxy in a new ship christened the Liberator. It is not clear whether this proposal was related to the B7 Enterprises effort.

On 11 December 2006, Blake's 7 Enterprises, who also use the names B7 Productions and B7 Media, announced that they had completed the recording of a series of thirty-six five minute Blake's 7 audio adventures written by Aaronovitch, Platt and Swallow. Described as a "radical new re-interpretation of Terry Nation's original series", the series will star Derek Riddell as Blake, Colin Salmon as Avon and Daniela Nardini as Servalan with Craig Kelly, Carrie Dobro, Michael Praed, Doug Bradley and India Fisher. It is due in Spring 2007. B7 Productions have also indicated it remains their intention to bring about a live action revival.

Terry Nation had done well financially from the commercial exploitation of Doctor Who’s Daleks and so was aware from the outset of the potential for merchandise related to Blake's 7. Nation and his agent, Roger Hancock, had discussed the matter with Ray Williams of BBC Merchandising as early as December 1976. By May 1977, up to twenty-seven items of merchandise had been proposed by companies including Palitoy, Letraset and Airfix. In the end only a few of the items proposed made it to the shops. However, Blake's 7 related merchandise continues to appear to this day.

One of the first items to emerge was a novelisation of the first four episodes, titled Blake's 7, written by Trevor Hoyle (who would later go on to write the episode Ultraworld) and published in late 1977, shortly before the series began broadcasting. Hoyle followed up with two further novelisations – Blake's 7: Project Avalon (1979, novelising the season one episodes Seek-Locate-Destroy, Duel, Project Avalon, Deliverance and Orac) and Blake's 7: Scorpio Attack (1981, novelising the season four episodes Rescue, Traitor and Stardrive). A small number of toys – including a model Liberator by Corgi and a Federation handgun that fired ping-pong balls – were released as well as jigsaws, badges and patches during the show's run. Dudley's Simpson's theme music was also released as a single, backed with The Federation March, a piece of incidental music from the episode Redemption. World Distributors produced a Blake's 7 Annual for the years 1979, 1980 and 1981. During the fourth season, Marvel UK begin publishing Blake's 7 Magazine, a sister publication to its Doctor Who Magazine, from October 1981. The magazine, which included a comic strip, ran for twenty-three issues (as well as two specials) until August 1983.

The children's magazine programme Blue Peter offered a cheaper, home-made, alternative to fans wanting merchandise. In the edition broadcast on 23 February 1978, presenter Lesley Judd demonstrated how to create a replica Liberator teleport bracelet from common household objects. This was followed up by an item, on 6 June 1983, when presenter Janet Ellis demonstrated a similar method of making a replica Scorpio bracelet.

Merchandise continued to appear after the series had ended. Two early efforts came from Tony Attwood – Blake's 7: The Programme Guide, published by Target in 1982, was a non-fiction overview of the series including a detailed episode guide, an encyclopedia and interviews with the cast and writers while Afterlife, published by Target in 1984, was an original novel set after the final episode. Another original novel, Avon: A Terrible Aspect, which told the story of Avon's early years before he met Blake, was published in 1989 and was written by Paul Darrow. Comet Miniatures produced a range of kits in the late 1980s and early 1990s including the Liberator, a clip gun (from Season 4), a Federation trooper and Liberator and Scorpio teleport bracelets. Marvel, who had published the Blake's 7 Magazine, returned to the series in 1994 and 1995 with two specials, mostly written by television historian Andrew Pixley, that covered the making of the series as well as the short-lived Blake's 7 Poster Magazine that ran for seven issues between December 1994 and May 1995. Several books offering critical insight and behind the scenes information on Blake's 7 have also been issued including Blake's 7: The Complete Guide by Adrian Rigelsford (Boxtree, 1995); Blake's 7: The Inside Story by Joe Nazzaro and Sheelagh Wells (who worked on the series as a make-up designer) (Virgin, 1997); A History and Critical Analysis of Blake's 7 by John Kenneth Muir (McFarland and Company, 1999) and Liberation. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7 by Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore (Telos, 2003).

The BBC began issuing Blake's 7 on videotape from 1985. The initial releases, which were made available on both VHS and Betamax (first three releases only) formats, comprised four compilation tapes containing selected episodes from the first three seasons edited down into a c. 90 minute "movie" format. Then, starting in 1991, the entire series was released, in order, on VHS with two episodes per tape over twenty-six volumes. Later, an independent company, Fabulous Films, re-issued the tapes in different packaging. As the DVD format grew in popularity, the BBC, along with Fabulous Films, began making plans to issue the series in season box sets. These plans were disrupted by conflicts with rights-holders Blake's 7 Enterprises. These issues were eventually resolved and the series was released, in Region 2, at a rate of one season per year, between 2003 and 2006. A casualty of the difficulties with Blake's 7 Enterprises was The Making of Blake's 7, a four-part documentary directed by Kevin Davies, intended as an extra feature with each DVD release. Blake's 7 Enterprises stated that the reason for dropping the documentaries was that they "did not feel it provided a proper tribute or fresh retrospective of the show".

Finally, peripherally related to Blake's 7, the Kaldor City audio plays, created by Chris Boucher and produced by Magic Bullet Productions, tie the Blake's 7 universe into the world he created for his Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death through the use of psychostrategist Carnell (Scott Fredericks), who first appeared in the Blake's 7 episode Weapon. Magic Bullet Productions had previously produced two "Blake's 7" audio tapes - "The Mark of Kane" and "The Logic of Empire" set before and after the events on Gauda Prime plus a documentary "The Mark of Kane". In these plays original cast members Paul Darrow, Peter Tuddenham, Jacqueline Pearce, Gareth Thomas and Brian Croucher reprised their parts from the TV series. The tapes were made as 'not-for-profit' and are out of print.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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